At the feet of Lou Méchiche, in a Bordeaux café where she sits, her dog Pita instantly settles at her feet. He never leaves her, as a good guide who allows her to move forward, everywhere. The 18-year-old visually impaired woman has 1/20 vision, her left eye only seeing light, her right eye not seeing everything around. The fault lies with a brain tumor, detected at the age of 2, which damaged his optic nerves.

On May 23, Lou Méchiche will be one of the bearers of the Olympic flame, which will stop in Bordeaux. If the course of the day will not be known until the last moment, the young para-surfing athlete already knows that she will cover 200 meters, guided by Pita, proud to wear this symbol of “unity and peace”.

She is one of four athletes selected for the occasion, with surfer Justine Dupont, dancer and breaking coach Omar Remichi, and weight throw and hammer throw para-athlete Béatrice Aoustin. For the surfer, this participation is a way of promoting her sport, absent from the Paralympic Games, in the hope of being able to compete in Los Angeles in 2028, where para surfing could make its debut.

Lou Méchiche immediately loved surfing. The one who was eager to get started alongside her big brother tried her hand at the age of 7, when her treatment and physical condition allowed her to do so. The first time, thanks to the SeeSurf association, which organizes surfing initiations for the visually impaired and blind.

If her parents thought then that she would just have a good time in the water, to have fun, for Lou, it was a revelation. “I felt like I was walking on water. I was coming out of chemotherapy and I felt like I was coming back to life. It was as if I had been in apnea for seven years of my life and I was taking a deep breath. It was magical, a freedom. I will remember it all my life,” explains the young woman, her eyes shining. Sitting next to her, her father, Cyril, confirms: “We said to ourselves that she was going to do it once. But the way she hung on was extraordinary. »

Titles very quickly

Very quickly, the young woman wanted to line up in competition. And everything comes together. In 2019, at the age of 13, she participated in the Gironde championships. Then come the French championships, before selection for the French team and participation, in March 2020, in the world championships in California. ” I do not believe it. I think it was on the way home that I finally realized. I came fourth in the world, the French team fifth in the world,” she remembers, still surprised by this dazzling success.

“Everything came together, we didn’t have time to think, we were afraid of failure, of pressure, but she wanted to go,” her father recalls. Afterwards, we could no longer stop the machine. Our role is not to be a hindrance, but to provide her with everything she needs to move forward in her dream. »

Since then, Lou Méchiche has won a team world champion title with the French team in 2022 and 2023, won an individual bronze medal at the world championship in 2023 and won the gold medal in the world tour of the PSL para surfing league in 2023.

His daily training sessions are organized in Hossegor, Biarritz or Biscarosse, and are combined with the gym every morning. In the water, she is guided during competitions by a pair – whom she generally does not know – placed 10 meters from her. “He describes absolutely everything to me, but without any physical contact, otherwise I can be eliminated from the competition. I am never alone in the water. I tried, it was a disaster! », says the young woman.

“I like this spirit of having to surpass myself, and seeing my level evolve with each competition. It’s like a new fight that I’m leading, more positive, to show the world, and myself, that no matter our differences, we can do what we want, with the right entourage, determination and passion,” adds Lou Méchiche. With, still in sight, the Paralympic Games of 2028. “There is surfing in the Olympic Games, why not para surfing in the Paralympics? “, she says.

Between her training sessions, the young para surfer speaks in schools, colleges, and even at the Bordeaux business school Kedge Business School. The objective is to talk about disability and differences. Remember that “our cultural origins, our sexual orientation, our gender also do not matter. It’s a great asset, you have to learn from the differences of others. It’s something that’s very close to my heart.”